The drought facing the Western Cape is reaching critical levels. According to CEO at Agri Western Cape, Carl Opperman, this is the worst situation they’ve ever had to manage in his 40-year career. On 3 September, the City of Cape Town implemented Level 5 water restrictions and is poised to implement phase one of its three-part Critical Water Shortages Disaster Plan.
To help businesses access relevant information in order to make key decisions regarding water security, global water treatment specialists, PROXA, hosted a technical workshop on the 18th of October at the Stellenbosch Business School. Elspeth Grahn, Director - Business Development, explains the motivation behind this move, “We don’t see water scarcity as a government problem, a business problem or a residential problem. It’s everyone’s problem and we need to work together to find sustainable solutions.” She expands, “At present, dam levels are at 37% and decreasing gradually, total groundwater availability in South Africa is 17bn kiloliters and from next year the country will be water negative. In terms of the agricultural sector, net farming income per ha expected to drop to a loss of R80000 by 2026 for a typical Western Cape vineyard, while apple and pear production is expected to reduce by up to 30% based on the current scenario of lower water availability.” Elspeth continues, “There is cause for concern, but the aim of the technical workshop was to create an ideal platform on which relationships between businesses and authorities could be strengthened and where solutions could be developed together, working from a place of knowledge and understanding.”
Over one hundred delegates – representing a wide range of industries such as mining and steel, property development and food and beverage – attended the workshop. The cohort comprised CEOs, members of local government, project managers and engineers, among others. Seven key speakers representing private and government bodies made presentations followed by question and answer sessions and networking opportunities.
“The workshop went even better than expected,” Elspeth comments. “Over the course of the day three key messages became very apparent. Firstly, businesses do have a number of viable ways in which to reduce water consumption. These can be as simple as eliminating leaks or as complex as installing new water treatment systems.” Elspeth continues, “The second point is that businesses need an enabling environment in which they can act fast in terms of critical water reduction – this includes the provision of a clear regulatory environment, government support, internal agility plus information on what is possible. And the third and possibly the most empowering learning gained is that collaboration between companies fosters and fast tracks innovation and partnerships that can achieve sustainable water reduction.”
When pressed as to what PROXA hopes the actionable outcomes from the workshop will be, Elspeth had this to say, “Water scarcity is not something that will go away when the drought in the Western Cape ends. It is, unfortunately, the “new normal”. We hope that government and regulatory authorities understand what structures, support and legislation need to be in place to enable a solution-driven environment. We also want companies to be increasingly aware of their water consumption and to direct teams to implement solutions – and fast. And by that we mean solutions that not only solve the immediate water crisis but solutions that are sustainable.”
Elspeth ends on a positive note, “In the course of the workshop, PROXA discussed many solutions such as borehole and grey water treatment, effluent reuse and seawater desalination. We also demonstrated how many companies already save as much as 30% just by taking advice from water specialists that help them optimise their existing usage. Furthermore, we are heartened to see that businesses in the Western Cape have worked hard to achieve good reductions to date. And we expect that a further overall 5% reduction will be achieved before end of the year, which can translate to approximately 20MLD.”